This week, Latino USA goes to the doctor.
We spend three days inside CommunityHealth in Chicago—the largest free health clinic in the country, which serves only people without insurance.
Free clinics have only been around in the United States starting in the 1960s and 1970s. They began as places to support a growing number of young people who ran away from home, were not insured, or were addicted to drugs.
Today, there are nearly 28 million uninsured people in the U.S., and for some of them, free clinics are their safety net. When it comes to undocumented people, they generally have no access to health insurance and so their healthcare options are very limited.
It’s very difficult for journalists to get behind the scenes access to medical centers because there are a lot of laws protecting patient privacy. So when CommunityHealth told us they would give us full access to their facilities, we saw it as a rare opportunity to observe the daily dramas that unfold there. We spend several days sitting in on doctor’s exams and talking to patients, interpreters, and staff—all to try to capture a snapshot of how life as an undocumented person can affect an individual’s physical and mental health.
NOTE: This is a bilingual episode, where some of the audio is untranslated. More than half of the clinic’s patients speaks Spanish, and we have decided to not translate these interviews into English, because we want to preserve the voices of the people we spoke to and let them communicate their stories in their own words. We think even if you don’t understand every single word, you will get a lot from this story. A transcript of the story with full English translation is available below: